Friday, January 17, 2014

Evolving Language

Despite being an “old guy” I not only accept that the English language is evolving, but have become rather comfortable with no few of the new verbal shortcuts and see them as actually sort of useful.

Rob Reinalda writes in Huffington Post of Literary mistakes that he wants people to stop making, but his only credential seems to be that he is a writer. If he’s was even taught to write his curriculum vitae doesn’t say so.
I know, neither was I, but I’m not issuing edicts about how other people should write. For the most part he seems to be objecting to the evolving nature of the English language.

“Arriving passengers may be met momentarily,” used to mean that they could be seen only for a brief time before they disappeared for some mysterious reason, but today it means they can be seen soon and for as long as you want. One has to admit that the new usage rolls off of the tongue nicely, and is certainly more easily understood over a PA system in a noisy airport than some lengthy phrase involving numbers and minutes, which would probably be inaccurate anyway.

There’s the old edict against ending a sentence with a preposition, which most people today don’t even know from a hole in the ground. I was taught it’s anything you can do regarding a mountain, but “paint” isn’t a preposition, so I think I missed the point. “With” is a preposition, and someone once famously made the point about the literary rule by saying the ending a sentence with a proposition is “something up with which I will not put.” A mountain is too big to “put” so I guess “put” is not a preposition.

Anyway, people end sentences all the time with “to” and “with,” both of which are prepositions, and who cares? Not me, certainly.

There is a growing tendency to turn intransitive verbs into transitive ones, such as, “We will grow the economy.” I have to admit that one still annoys me a little bit, probably because it is usually applied to the economy and any statement about the economy tends to annoy me. I probably don’t really object to the word usage, I just know that cutting taxes to “grow the economy” is bullshit.

The rules matter, but they are arbitrary and it’s the message that is the purpose of writing. If the message is conveyed clearly and unambiguously, then the writer has accomplished the task.


  1. The one that still bugs me is using "good" where "well" is the appropriate. Hardly ever the reverse (one does not hear "he did a well job", but: "he did good" and the like is rampant. It grates on my ears.